Remember…hmm about a year ago when I bought the re-issue of the classic Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book? And I swore black, blind and blue that this year for my birthday I would make the classic swimming pool cake? Well that didn’t happen. Because I made something better! I made a Swan Lake Cake!
Ok, technically a pink flamingo cake but in my mind a Swan Lake cake because….I’m going to the ballet! For my birthday the Fussiest Eater in the World bought me…us…tickets to Swan Lake! It’s being performed by the Russian National Theatre Ballet and I can’t wait. Mind you, I have to because it’s not until November. Meantime, I guess I can eat cake!
Ok. so, let’s get down to it. This should have looked like this:
Not to diss the AWW but I like my version better. It’s brighter, less busy, a little more uncluttered. And it’s pink flamingo’s on a lake of bright blue jelly (jello for my American friends)!!! When there are so many artificial colours in the one place, you need to keep it pretty simple!
So, now to the assembly. I used a box butter cake mix. You could buy a ready-made cake. It’s going to have a big hole cut in the middle of it so no need to be too precious here.
The next step is to ice the cake inside and out. Icing on the inside will prevent the cake from going soggy once you add the jelly /jello. Here I am about half way through that process. I used the icing that came with the cake mix and it was just enough although I had to spread it pretty thin in some places.
I used Blue Heaven flavoured jelly. Which as anyone outside of Australia will know is a totally made up nonsense flavour. And anyone in Australia will be hard pressed to tell you what Blue Heaven actually tastes like. EXTENSIVE research on my behalf (ie a google search) would have me tell you that Blue Heaven is a combination of raspberry and vanilla. Which does sound quite heavenly. I have no idea why it’s blue.
It does make a pretty lake though!
I really wanted to keep the jelly whole so I would have a lovely smooth surface on my lake. Impossible! Anyway, I went down to our local lake today and it was neither flat (nor quiet). I had never really noticed how LOUD the lake is on a windy day! And not just because Oscar goes crazy when he sees his version of Swan Lake!
Once your jelly sets, rake thought it with a fork and then move it into your cake lake.
Decorate as you will – a Swan Lake Cake, a swimming pool cake, a sea monster cake! Whatever floats your boat….you could even float your boat on the lake! I bought my flamingo candles at a gift shop but you could use toys or sweets. The only limit here is your imagination.
Oh and a little tip for eating. Jelly and cake is great! Jelly and cake and a little dollop of whipped cream?
Here’s the original recipe from the AWW:
Here’s a little bit of what I’ll be seeing come November.
It was recently the fussiest eater in the world’s birthday and I made him a peacock cake!
Isn’t it adorable? Even if I do say so myself! And for the non-bakers out there it is all assembly, no baking involved, unless of course you want to bake the cake yourself.
But more about our little peacock friend later. The peacock was a special symbol for us as it reminded us of the time we spent at The Yala National Park when we were in Sri Lanka earlier this year...OMG…last year!
The National Park at Yala is a huge tract of land at the Southern tip of Sri Lanka that is home to a myriad of wild life. It is situated in leopard country and whilst we did two Safaris hoping to see one of these magnificent creatures, we were unlucky both times….or were we? Whilst we did not spot a leopard (pun intended) we saw so many other wild animals, living in their natural habitat that I felt utterly privileged to have been there.
Here was Mr Peacock:
There were monkeys galore:
Some jackals playing:
A crocodile, most definitely not playing:
And a huge amount of elephants – my favourite part was when we saw two older female elephants and a cub walk down to a pond to have a bath and a drink:
Then the baby decided to have a little roll in the water:
Afterwards, they came right up to us, crossing just behind the jeep we were in.
Then there was this little one who decided to head off on his own:
The closest we got to the elusive leopard was these tracks:
On a more sombre note, there is also a monument to the people who lost their life at Yala in the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.
I could go on about Yala all day and have thousands more photos of all the animals and all the birds but we have a Peacock Cake to talk about!
The recipe comes direct from the Women’s Weekly Cheat’s Cakes 2. The idea behind these books is that you can buy a cake and then just decorate it instead of having to factor in baking as well. Obviously the cover caught my eye but there are many more treasures to trove in these pages!
Hmm…I don’t think I did too bad a job!
I made the cake for the peacock’s body because there was a random box of cake mix in my pantry. But you could totally use a bought cake. The Women’s Weekly provides a template for the body. I copied it onto a sheet of paper, enlarging it a bit as it was really quite small and I wanted to use up as much of my cake as possible.
One of advantage of cutting around a template is that if a bit of cake “falls” off as you are cutting around it doesn’t really matter and you can have a little taste test as you work. You can call it being greedy if you must. I prefer Quality Assurance.
I used the tip of an ice cream cone for my peacock’s beak. A black jube, topped by a piece of white jelly bean topped by the end piece of a black jelly bean made his eye, with a swoop of licorice creating his cat’s eye.
And you will need something to fortify you because threading all those lollies onto the skewers takes a long time.
If making the Peacock Cake for a children’s party you can place more tail feathers in a glass by the side of the cake if you need too. Just be sure to remove the lollies from the skewers before handing them out.
Here’s the recipe for the Peacock Cake, straight from the book. I had to deviate from some of the sweets suggested because I could not find them – use what you have and let your creative juices flow!!!
This is so fun and colourful and would be a great party cake for a child of any age. If you want to make it and would like a copy of the template, let me know.
Have a wonderful week. I hope it’s full of pomp and pageantry. For me, today is the return to work after the Christmas break which is going to be tough! Back to the dreaded alarm and early mornings. On the upside, tonight I am seeing one of my food heroes, Nigella Lawson, live in conversation at the Melbourne Town Hall – it should be A-MAZING!
They say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too, yeah
They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you
So yes, it was my birthday…and I made us all a cake. And, oh boy, what a cake. Just in case you thought that after that weird stroking meat hand we were done with Margaret Fulton? No way. No how. Nyet.
Because I saved the best for last. Because back in the 60’s Margaret Fulton made a very special cake. Which I totally copied for my birthday. And it was awesome.
What made it so good?
The burnt sugar cake? Incidentally a first for me (and utterly delicious)…
The caramel icing?
That it came with four….huh…maybe fab four friends to help get the party started?
Yes, I made The Beatles Cake!!!! Which of course, you already knew if you read the heading so my attempt at suspense was all for nought.
Here is Margaret Fulton’s original version, made back in the day.
And here is mine:
I think I did a pretty good job of this. I was very pleased with my Beatle cookies. Dare I say they may possibly even look slightly more like their counterparts than Margaret’s original? And I know they’re not going to win any form of identikit prize and it may not be the face of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich but it’s almost recognizably The Beatles. If you squint. And look from far away…
I found the recipe here, although the burnt sugar cake is also included in the Margaret Fulton cookbook.
I changed it only slightly, I used the same icing pen for the eyes as I used to pipe the yeah, yeah, yeah biscuits and I rolled my liquorice flat (9-10 seconds in the microwave and it became soft enough to roll out). Then I cut the hair shapes out with a pair of scissors.
Also, the template in the link did not work so I had to make my own face templates. I looked at a few things and I decided my best option was actually to use some of the images I found looking under Beatles cartoons. I printed them, cut them out, then cut around them to get the face shapes.
I felt very sorry for Ringo. The original recipe called for a peanut for each of the other Beatles’ noses and THREE cashews for Ringo’s! Too cruel Margaret, too cruel. I used a whole peanut for Ringo and a half peanut for the others.
To be honest with you I did not think I could pull this one off. There were so many points of worry – the shape of the cookies, decorating them, the right amount of burnt for the burnt sugar cake, the caramel icing. This whole thing was FRAUGHT with a lack of confidence in myself more than any real complexity in the cooking. I mean it wasn’t the easiest thing I have ever made but it also was not as hard as I made it out be in my head.
The secret was like most things to give myself plenty of time and to break the recipe into little pieces. I baked the cookies on Friday night, baked the cake on Saturday and did the icing and all the cookie decorations on Sunday. For me this was about right. I think trying to do more would have lead to madness.
Did I mention this was delicious? And in the end….haha…worth all the bother. Margaret Fulton sure knew how to make a cake! It was also HUGE.
But only fitting this time round to finish some words from my favourite Beatle, George Harrison:
All the world’s a birthday cake,
So take a piece….but not too much
My friend Sara recently sat, and passed with flying colours, her Australian citizenship test. By way of celebration, she asked me to bake her a cheesecake. Sara has asked me many times to make her a cheesecake and, to date this has not happened. This time was no exception
“In honour of your new Australianness I will make you a Skippy* Cake” I said.
There was a long pause. Then.
“What’s a Skippy cake?”
That night I emailed her this picture of a Skippy Cake which is from “The Party Cookbook” from 1971, edited by Ann Marshall and Elizabeth Sewell.
The next morning she sent me this:
Well, never let it be said that I’m the type of gal who goes around promising to make people Skippy Cakes and not delivering, so, here it is Sara, your very own Skippy Cake!
Actually, rewind and delete that. I am exactly the kind of gal who promises a Skippy Cake and does not deliver because sadly, Sara works in our Canberra Office and I am in Melbourne. Technically, yes that 1400 kilometre round trip is do-able in a weekend. But so is an ultra-marathon. And I’m not doing one of them either!
The Skippy Cake and the Mushroom Cake I made a few weeks ago got me thinking back to the awesome cakes my mum used to make me.
There was this when I was….hmmm….how old? Four? Six? If only it was completely obvious what year I was celebrating….
And she crocheted that purple dress for me too!
A few years later and I got my very own Dolly Varden! The utter joy of this was hard to describe. And her skirt is the exact same colour as my 5 year old birthday dress!
It’s just a shame you can’t see the detail in the dress. It was gorgeous! And every rose, every detail hand made! There was one to top that too. One year she made me a.market barrow full of fruit and vegetables and flowers. So imagine this:
But in cake and LOADED with vegies, fruit and flowers. Hundreds of teeny hand made fondant apples and roses and oranges and eggplant, bananas and tulips, pumpkins and tomatoes…it was loaded! And how did we repay her hours and hours of painstaking work? By not taking a single damn photo.
How much do we suck? We are the worst family in the world. Seriously.
So, filled with nostalgia, it was it was hardly surprising that my eye was drawn to this in my local supermarket on the weekend:
And you know, there’s not that many children’s cake books that have a comedy routine and a song dedicated to them.
So fancy a peek at some of my faves?
For the budding artist there is a paint palette:
Got a mini-maestro in the house ? How about a piano cake? Can you believe it? A freaking piano! Can you see why this is Australia’s most famous children’s cake book?the best book ever written in this country? the best book ever written?
And the one I always wanted and never got. The Pool Party cake. If I didn’t already have an AMAZING cake figured out for my own birthday this year, I would be making this one. Next year for sure!
I mean they’re no Skippy cakes but they are all kinds of awesome.
Not all is wonderful though. There is a very cryptic message in the forward where editor Pamela Clarke advises that “four of your little friends are missing”. I really want to know what those four missing cakes are. Obviously something nowadays seen to be massively politically incorrect – my money is on at least one Golliwog. It’s certainly not gender based stereotypes because the book is full of them. The section on boys cakes has 3 cars, a rocket and a helicopter. The girl’s cakes have a sewing machine, a stove and a dressing table. It would really piss me off except that stove cake is just adorable!
Then, there is some stuff that borders on the downright creepy. Take this thing, called a Mary Jane, which looks like it should be the leading role in a horror film:
And surely you’d only make the Happy Clown if you wanted to psychologically scar your kids for life.
But then clowns totally creep me out anyway. This is how much. You know that actor Brian Dennehy? I watched him in a movie where he played John Wayne Gacy aka The Clown Killer. This sounds like he killed clowns but he actually dressed up as a clown and killed young boys. Lots of young boys. And then buried them in the walls of his house. Since seeing that, I’ve never been able to watch anything with Brian Dennehy in it again. Because in my mind, he is a creepy clown serial killer. Which I’m sure he isn’t. I’m sure he’s a lovely man. But that movie scarred me. Don’t take my word for it. Watch this. And tell me it doesn’t give you the screaming heebie-jeebies. Mute your sound though, I don’t know what that noise is but it’s awful. The entire movie can also be found on You Tube if you want the full extent of the horror.
What? How did we get onto serial killing clowns? We’re meant to be talking about cake dammit. Children’s cakes in general. Skippy Cake in particular. Here is the recipe which I followed pretty much exactly. It’s a really nice butter cake even if you don’t want to go the full Skippy. Do try the toasted coconut over the icing though, that was delicious.
You don’t have to use all that food colouring. You could puree some raspberries for the pink cake. I didn’t even bother with the yellow colouring in the icing because kangaroos are brown or grey not yellow. I added some cocoa powder to the icing mix to make it brown but the coconut pretty much covered it all up anyway. And remember when I destroyed that curry with the bright green pandan essence? No you don’t because that’s a kitchen nightmare I’m saving for a special occasion. Well that’s what I used to make the grass.
The hardest part was making the kangaroo template:
The actual cake was lovely!
For those of you who might not know, the cake was named after a very famous Australian kids tv show called Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Skippy was a problem solving kangaroo. It was set in a national park and if hikers got lost, Skippy would find them or if someone fell into a hole in the ground Skippy would summon rescuers to help them. Iconic childhood viewing!
Also, you may be wondering what happened to The Skippy Cake seeing as Sara did not get it? Well it just so happens that it was my bosses birthday that same week and he just happens to support a football team called The Kangaroos.
I took the Boomerang part with Sara’s name off and we ate that at home and then I took The Skippy Cake into work and we had a birthday morning tea. I went back into the kitchen an hour or so later to wrap up the last few pieces for some of my friends who were not in that day and it had all been eaten so I think everyone liked it. My boss even took photos and showed his kids that night!
And I already have an order to make a cake for someone else’s birthday.
He wants a cheesecake….